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View Full Version : Ebony fingerboard - worth it on a uke?



clayton56
07-30-2009, 10:19 PM
Should I hold out for/order a uke with an ebony fretboard?

I think it's essential for a banjo but on nylon guitar it didn't seem to make a lot of difference.

Does it play better or sound better on a ukulele?

thomas
07-30-2009, 10:33 PM
If you are going to use a wound C string or a wound Low G ebony will be more durable, rosewood is pretty durable too.

jkevinwolfe
07-31-2009, 12:45 AM
The few luthiers I've talked to about it seem to rank rosewood and ebony about equal. I have a uke with a rosewood fretboard and an ebony headstock. The ebony seems a little darker and finer grained than the rosewood.

Ukuleleblues
07-31-2009, 11:12 AM
I dont a see, hear or feel a big difference tween ebony and rosewood.

wearymicrobe
07-31-2009, 11:41 AM
I like the feel of ebony and the look of it over rosewood so I always go that route if I am having one made.

Persoanlly I think if you match the bridge in ebony over rosewood that will have a greater effect on the tone of the instrument then anything.

mailman
07-31-2009, 11:48 AM
I have two ukes; one with ebony, one with rosewood.

I cannot hear any difference between the two. I think I can feel the slightest of differences (the ebony feels smoother), but that may be all in my head. I know I can see the difference. I prefer the ebony's darker color, and the rosewood looks more porous to me, as if the grain is more open.

Bottom line....I prefer the ebony, but my criteria may be purely cosmetic.

RonS
07-31-2009, 01:35 PM
I dont a see, hear or feel a big difference tween ebony and rosewood.

I don't think you would hear or feel a difference.

Ebony should wear less than rosewood. How much of a difference really depends on what species of ebony and rosewood.

I would think your fingernails would wear out the fingerboard way before nylon strings

Brewerpaul
07-31-2009, 02:23 PM
As a wood worker (wooden pennywhistles) I don't find much difference between them. Go for whatever looks best to you.

uluapoundr
07-31-2009, 02:37 PM
I personally like ebony, it does feel a bit smoother, but not so much that it makes me play any better ;). There are different grades of ebony, some have deep grooves and white streaks, those aren't as nice as the ones that are all black in my opinion.

Some makers use koa for fretboards, I've seen many worn uke fretboards where koa was used. I personally would stay away from a fretboard made of koa, even if it looks nice or matches the uke at first, in the long run, they don't hold up well.

My Moore Bettah uke has a Cocobolo fretboard which so far appears to be quite durable, stays nice and slick, and is easy to clean...plus it's a really nice wood if you are looking for a fretboard with rich grain and color.

ukulelearp
07-31-2009, 02:39 PM
Can someone explain how it is that the material of the fingerboard can affect the sound or tone? Just curious.

BrotherUke
07-31-2009, 03:05 PM
Theoretically, with all things being equal, a harder material fretboard should yeild a better tone. However, all things are not equal. Strings, callouses, pressure etc., are variable from player to player and, I would submit, hour to hour for the same player. That being said, the difference between the hardness of ebony and rosewood is negligible. It's purely esthetics.

Ahnko Honu
07-31-2009, 04:13 PM
I wonder why Lignum Vitae is not used, maybe too hard?
I want a fret board made from Kiawe a very hard locally available wood.

clayton56
07-31-2009, 10:39 PM
Can someone explain how it is that the material of the fingerboard can affect the sound or tone? Just curious.

I have some experience making banjos and I know the neck material does affect tone and sustain. The string creates vibrations at both ends, and the fingerboard is transmitting some of them. There's also the feel.

I was asking to see if uke players notice a difference. Violins are usually ebony, but ukes aren't.

I like the rosewood on the ukes I have, will probably stick with it.

RonS
08-01-2009, 01:53 AM
I wonder why Lignum Vitae is not used, maybe too hard?

Because of the high oil content in Lignum Vitae, it doesn't glue very well.



I have some experience making banjos and I know the neck material does affect tone and sustain. The string creates vibrations at both ends, and the fingerboard is transmitting some of them. There's also the feel.
You are right, the neck material on banjos does make a difference in the way a banjo sounds.

There has been a decades long argument if the neck material on guitars make a difference in sound. IMO if it does, it is very negligible.

cornfedgroove
08-01-2009, 03:50 AM
at this point, its whatever looks better...

Ahnko Honu
08-01-2009, 07:42 AM
Because of the high oil content in Lignum Vitae, it doesn't glue very well.



I forgot about that, my dad had propeller shaft bearings made from the stuff. Teak is another oily wood but some glues work for Teak, and I would guess it might work for Lignum Vitae as well. I would think an oily wood would make for a nice fretboard. Just thinking out loud. :rolleyes:

My 2 latest 'ukuleles have fretboards made from Lychee fruit wood light purplish brown in color, very dense wood and an interesting contrast from my Ebony, and Rosewood fretboard 'ukuleles.

Craig
08-01-2009, 07:47 AM
Should I hold out for/order a uke with an ebony fretboard?

I think it's essential for a banjo but on nylon guitar it didn't seem to make a lot of difference.

Does it play better or sound better on a ukulele?
Yes. I can't explain any sound difference but I really like the feel of ebony.

RonS
08-01-2009, 08:20 AM
My 2 latest 'ukuleles have fretboards made from Lychee fruit wood light purplish brown in color, very dense wood and an interesting contrast from my Ebony, and Rosewood fretboard 'ukuleles.

I never seen Lychee so I googled it and found that it is indeed a beautiful wood. Reminds me of Black Cherry (one of my all time favorite woods)



at this point, its whatever looks better...

IMO you are 100% correct

Brewerpaul
08-01-2009, 08:21 AM
Just a word about Cocobolo. Some of the exotic hardwoods are fairly allergenic, causing contact dermatitis, and Cocobolo is one of those. If your skin is easily irritated you might want to avoid it. I've gotten so I develop a slight rash when I work with the stuff unless I wear a long sleeve operating room gown (which luckily I have free access to in my day job).
Apart from that, it's a fabulous timber. It would make a wonderful back and sides for a uke.

ukulelearp
08-01-2009, 08:26 AM
I just like the look of rosewood more, ebony seems too "manufactured" in my opinion.

ichadwick
08-01-2009, 08:40 AM
Can someone explain how it is that the material of the fingerboard can affect the sound or tone? Just curious.
It can't. The fretboard has no substantive effect on the tone or volume.

nic579
08-01-2009, 09:23 AM
Just a word about Cocobolo. Some of the exotic hardwoods are fairly allergenic, causing contact dermatitis, and Cocobolo is one of those. If your skin is easily irritated you might want to avoid it. I've gotten so I develop a slight rash when I work with the stuff unless I wear a long sleeve operating room gown (which luckily I have free access to in my day job).
Apart from that, it's a fabulous timber. It would make a wonderful back and sides for a uke.


This is the one thing I know I am allergic too. But only when it is being cut or sanded.

RonS
08-01-2009, 09:27 AM
Just a word about Cocobolo. Some of the exotic hardwoods are fairly allergenic, causing contact dermatitis, and Cocobolo is one of those.

There are two kinds of people in this world.
Ones that are allergic to Cocobolo and ones that will be allergic to Cocobolo.

Ahnko Honu
08-01-2009, 09:27 AM
Just a word about Cocobolo. Some of the exotic hardwoods are fairly allergenic, causing contact dermatitis, and Cocobolo is one of those. If your skin is easily irritated you might want to avoid it. I've gotten so I develop a slight rash when I work with the stuff unless I wear a long sleeve operating room gown (which luckily I have free access to in my day job).
Apart from that, it's a fabulous timber. It would make a wonderful back and sides for a uke.

A couple of the newer available 'ukulele woods that are very allergy prone are Mango, and Lacewood (aka Silky Oak), pretty to look at but bad stuff especially if sensitive.
http://www.wrongdiagnosis.com/s/silky_oak_poisoning/intro.htm

Teek
08-01-2009, 10:37 AM
Mango is actually related to poison sumac, which has the same irritant as poison ivy and poison oak. :eek:

Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

Brewerpaul
08-01-2009, 03:30 PM
This is the one thing I know I am allergic too. But only when it is being cut or sanded.

Yes, same for me. Cocobolo is one of the most popular woods for the pennywhistles that I make and once the whistle is finished I can play them as much as I want and never have an allergic reaction in either my fingers of lips. The dust and sawdust is nasty though. In addition to the surgical gown, I wear a dust mask and have an electric dust collector running when I turn the stuff on my lathe. I do the mask and dust collector for all woods-- even the non toxic dusts can still play havoc with your lungs if inhaled.